Starbucks offers first in-store augmented reality experience

Through the Roastery app, guests to the Shanghai Starbucks location can learn more about coffee through augmented reality.

At the first Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Asia, a guest would normally see a two-story copper roasting cask adorned with nearly 3,000 hand-carved Chinese stamps. Once they hold their phone up to it, however, they can see inside the cask as newly roasted beans drop down inside – thanks to augmented reality.

With this new AR feature, guests can virtually see the animated beans rest before being whisked through copper pipes to the coffee bars, as they read about the process of turning a bean into a cup of coffee. The augmented reality experience is woven throughout the Roastery.

“It’s like Alice in Wonderland meets Willy Wonka,” said Emily Chang, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Starbucks China. “It’s one thing to imagine a fully integrated in-store and digital experience, which brings together the impressive scale of the Shanghai Roastery with the highest quality small-lot coffee beans. It’s quite another to watch the AR experience get built, and come to life.”

The Shanghai Roastery is the first Starbucks in the world to have this AR experience. Customers are encouraged to download the Roastery app, and point their phones at key features throughout the location, giving them a digital tour. During their journey, customers can earn virtual badges. After earning them all, they can receive a custom Roastery social media filter to share online.

“We wanted to create a completely new brand experience for our customers,” said Chang. “Because you know, coffee is already such a deeply sensorial experience, even before the first sip: from hearing the unmistakable sound of beans being freshly ground, to inhaling that rich aroma and sipping your perfect blend, brewed just right. We wanted to take that customer experience even further.”

Guests who don’t download the Roastery app, but have a QR reader on their phone, can still enjoy the virtual experience by scanning QR codes around the location that unlock information. The entire experience is designed to help customers gain a greater understanding of coffee and its creation.

“It’s coffee as theater,” said Echo Jiang, director of customer experience at the Roastery.

It has yet to be announced if this AR feature will be coming to U.S. Roastery locations. For more information on Starbucks and their offerings, visit


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